4.50 from 6 votes

Mexican Meatballs

These Mexican Meatballs are super easy to make for Cinco de Mayo or a delicious weeknight dinner! Use ground chicken for perfectly moist meatballs with cumin, chili powder, jalapeños, and shredded cheese. Mexican meatballs, or albondigas, are a delicious and flavorful twist on traditional meatballs.

Mexican meatballs in a red skillet.


I thought using tortilla chips instead of bread crumbs was a nice touch! This chicken meatball recipe is super versatile: You can make it spicy or keep it mild. 

Whether you serve them with rice, beans, and tortillas for a more Mexican-inspired meal or get creative and pair them with pasta or a fresh salad, you’ll be sure to impress your friends and family with your cooking skills. 

recipe binder image

Why You’ll Love Mexican Meatballs

  • Incredible flavor: Mexican meatballs are typically made with various spices, such as chili powder, cumin, and jalapeños, which create a unique flavor profile that’s a bit different from your standard Italian meatballs.
  • Versatility: They can be served in various ways – over rice, with veggies, or even in a sandwich. You can enjoy them in your favorite dishes or create new ones, like a Mexican meatball sub. 
  • Healthy option: Mexican meatballs can be a part of your healthy eating goals. You can create a nutritious and satisfying meal by using lean meats and incorporating vegetables like onions and peppers. 

Ingredients

The full printable recipe card with measurements and instructions is found at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground chicken: I love using ground chicken in so many recipes! It’s super budget-friendly and healthy, too.
  • Jalapeño: It’s not Mexican food without jalapeños for me. Be sure to remove the seeds first. If you like less spicy food, swap this for a bell pepper!
  • Spices: I use a mixture of ground cumin, chili powder, and salt within the meatballs. If you want more spice, add a little cayenne pepper or a little smokiness with some smoked paprika.
  • Diced tomatoes: I didn’t drain the can of diced tomatoes. The liquid cooks a bit in the sauce, so why waste time? It was the perfect amount when the meatballs were ready to serve. 
  • Salsa: Mild, medium, or hot — the choice for this Mexican meatball sauce is yours. Add some spice or keep it low, depending on your salsa choice. Any brand will do! Try my garden salsa.
  • Tortilla chips: Meatballs need a binder. I kept it on theme with tortilla chips instead of breadcrumbs. 
  • Cheddar cheese: I like to use freshly grated cheese because it melts better in the meatballs. However, you can always use a bag of grated Mexican cheese, too.
  • Fresh cilantro: I used some chopped fresh cilantro for garnish.
Ingredients to make Mexican meatballs.

How to Make Mexican Meatballs

  • Step One: Mix the ground chicken, jalapeños, cumin, chili powder, salt, eggs, tortilla chips, and cheddar cheese in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine all the ingredients.
Steps to make Mexican Meatballs.
  • Step Two: Place the canned tomatoes and salsa in a large saucepan over medium. Bring it all to a boil and cook until it’s thickened. Let the tomato mixture simmer.
  • Step Three: Wet your clean hands and start rolling the meatballs! You want them all even, about an inch wide. You can use a cookie scoop if you like.
  • Step Four: Place the meatballs on a greased baking sheet in a single layer and cook until they’re at least 165 degrees F internally. No need to flip them!
Steps to make Mexican Meatballs.
  • Step Five: Place the baked meatballs in the tomato sauce and let them simmer briefly. Add some cilantro, and serve!
Steps to make Mexican Meatballs.

Equipment Needed

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  • Baking sheet: You want a sturdy baking sheet with a lip. Otherwise, the juices from the chicken meatballs could drip and start an oven fire!
  • Saucepan: I love this heavy-bottomed saucepan because it’s great for making a quick sauce. Plus it’s nonstick, so no burnt-on messes here!
  • Mixing bowls: Be sure to use a large mixing bowl to get all the ingredients completely combined. Don’t over mix, though — stop once you see a good array of ingredients in every area.

Serving Suggestions

Mexican meatballs in a skillet with a serving spoon.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Use breadcrumbs, finely crushed crackers, or oats instead of crushed tortilla chips.
  • Substitute the canned diced tomatoes for fire-roasted diced tomatoes.
  • Add adobo sauce or enchilada sauce and chopped chipotle peppers for extra flavor and spice.
  • Add fresh herbs like Mexican oregano or fresh mint.
  • You can swap out the ground chicken for other ground meat, such as ground beef, turkey, or pork. You can also use a combination of meats.
  • Add more Mexican spices. Taco seasoning is good!

Toppings

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    Adding your favorite toppings is one of the best parts of enjoying Mexican meatballs. Not only do they add extra flavor, but they can also give your dish a nice pop of color. Here are some popular toppings to consider:

    • Sour cream: This creamy addition provides a tangy contrast to the spicy flavors of the meatballs.
    • Guacamole: A classic topping that pairs perfectly with Mexican flavors, providing a satisfying creaminess.
    • Pico de gallo: This fresh, tangy salsa adds bright flavor and a pop of color to your dish.
    • Grated cheese: A sprinkle of shredded Mexican-style cheese or your favorite blend adds a delicious, melty touch.
    • Chopped cilantro: This aromatic herb adds visual appeal and complements the meatballs’ flavors.
    Mexican meatballs in a skillet.

    Storage Instructions

    Store the meatballs in an airtight container or a zip-top bag. Cooked meatballs can last in the fridge for 3-4 days, but you can also store them in the freezer for up to 3-4 months to retain their flavor and texture.

    Uncooked meatballs should be stored separately from the sauce to avoid sogginess. You can use a separate container or divide a single container into two compartments for the meatballs and sauce. Uncooked meatballs can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days.

    If you want to store uncooked meatballs in the freezer, follow these steps:

    1. First, place the uncooked meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
    2. Put the baking sheet in the freezer until the meatballs are fully frozen (usually in about 1-2 hours).
    3. Transfer the frozen meatballs into a freezer bag or an airtight freezer-safe container to protect them from freezer burn.

    Uncooked frozen meatballs can be stored for up to 3-4 months.

    To defrost frozen meatballs, place them in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid using the microwave, as it can cause them to become overcooked or rubbery. Once defrosted, reheat the meatballs on the stovetop or in the oven.

    Mexican meatballs in a bowl.

    Tips and Tricks for Perfect Mexican Meatballs

    • Add a binder: To keep the meatballs from falling apart during cooking, including a binder is essential. Mexican meatballs often use tortilla chips instead of breadcrumbs to stay on theme. Crush the chips finely and mix them with the meat to give your meatballs structure.
    • Season well: Give your meatballs a distinctly Mexican flavor using spices like chili powder and ground cumin. Additionally, consider adding chipotle powder for a smoky, spicy kick. Combine fresh ingredients such as garlic and green onions into the meat mixture to enhance flavor.
    • Incorporate cheese: Mexican meatballs taste great with cheese. Grate cheddar cheese generously into the meat mixture for a nice, melty interior. You can also use a pre-grated Mexican cheese blend if you prefer.
    • Use your hands for mixing: The best tool for mixing your ingredients is your hands. This allows you to combine everything evenly without overworking the meat, which can cause tough meatballs. Wet your hands slightly to prevent the meat from sticking to your fingers.

    Why Did My Meatballs Fall Apart?

    One reason your meatballs may have fallen apart is a lack of binder in the mixture. A proper binder helps combine the ingredients and maintain the structure of the meatballs. 

    Over-kneading the meat mixture can weaken the structure of your meatballs, resulting in them falling apart. To avoid this, knead your mixture only until all the ingredients are well combined, and avoid overworking and pressing the meat too much.

    Mexican. meatballs in a bowl.

    FAQ

    Can I make Mexican meatballs ahead of time?

    Definitely! You can prepare the meatball mixture ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Alternatively, you can cook the meatballs, and once they have cooled, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Just reheat and serve them when you are ready.

    What is the secret to good meatballs?

    Bad meatballs can be really bad—too dense in the center, too dry, or even too wet. I find baking meatballs works a lot better than frying. It keeps the juices in the meatballs and gives you that crispy skin every time. You always need a binder to hold everything together, so don’t force the meatballs with your hands! This can lead to incredibly dense meatballs.

    What causes meatballs to be tough?

    If there’s no moisture in your meatballs, they will be tough and chewy. The jalapeños and cheese add moisture to the mix without the typical milk addition. The salsa sauce also helps bring the moisture back to the meatballs after they bake. The tortilla chip binder also helps keep the meatballs moist! Without it, the ground chicken meatballs will shrink as they cook and become super tough.

    A Mexican meatball on a fork.

    Mexican Inspired Recipes

    You’ll also love these Waikiki Meatballs, Keto Cheese Balls, Chili Cranberry Fusion Meatballs, Air Fryer Bisquick Sausage BallsKorean MeatballsChicken PinwheelsGrape Jelly Meatballs and Swedish Meatballs.

    Follow me on Instagram @simplystacieblog, Facebook at Simply Stacie, TikTok @simplystacierecipes or Pinterest at @simplystacie and let me know how you liked this recipe and my other recipes.

    4.50 from 6 votes

    Mexican Meatballs

    Created by Stacie Vaughan
    Servings 18
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 40 minutes
    Total Time 50 minutes
    A fun new spin on the traditional meatball. Serve as an appetizer or add them to a pasta dish!

    Ingredients
     
     

    • 1 lb ground chicken
    • 1 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 large egg
    • ¼ cup tortilla chips crushed
    • 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
    • 1 can diced tomatoes 28oz can
    • ½ cup salsa
    • 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped, optional

    Instructions

    • Combine chicken, jalapeno, cumin, chili pepper, salt, eggs, tortilla chips and cheese in a large bowl. Use clean hands to mix it all together and set aside in the fridge.
    • Add tomatoes and salsa in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring often until thickened for about 10 minutes. Lower heat to a simmer.
    • Using wet hands, form the chicken mixture into meatballs about 1 to 1 ½ inches wide.
    • Add meatballs to a greased baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes in a 375°F oven. No turning is needed.
    • Once baked, return meatballs to sauce mixture and gently combine meatballs with sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add in cilantro (if desired) and serve hot.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1g | Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 541mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g

    The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

    Course Appetizers
    Cuisine Mexican
    Keyword Mexican Meatballs

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    4.50 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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    41 Comments

    1. Can you make this with ground beef instead of ground chicken?

    2. Patrick Prichard says:

      I would rather dip them in warmed homemade salsa or queso blanco. They sound good regardless.

    3. Alayne Langford says:

      I am definitely making the Mexican Meatballs because i can make them Gluten free and they will be a big hit! Thank you! 🙂

    4. Using tortilla chips in place of bread crumbs is the best idea I’ve seen all day. Love it!

    5. What a nice appetizer idea! Will have to give it a try.

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